Exercise classes have varying therapeutic values, some like a brisk walk with a good friend, others a full-on intervention with dumbbells and powerplates. I would place Cyclebeat somewhere in between those two extremes.
First off this is well and truly cycling and not spinning. You can tell it’s a place for aficionados by the hardcore cyclists who park their road bikes in the reception area, take a class and then cycle off into the sunset. Gender-wise the class I took was evenly balanced, and being in the City of course there were a few middle-aged banker types dressed in Rapha’s finest.
The second way you know that this is a place for people who are serious about cycling is that exercisers are encouraged to wear specialist SPD cleats, as pictured above. These shoes are available to hire for £1 – for newcomers it’s on the house. I’ve been to spin classes where you strap your feet in only to feel uncomfortable because it’s either too tight or too loose. These shoes are light and breathable. Built into the sole is a metal locking mechanism, which you slide and click into place. It took a little getting used to, but the difference when you get started is immense – your feet feel free so you can focus on your cadence, your core and your rises.
Yep, I’m trying to adopt the lingo now – there was plenty of it. The instructor told us at the start of the class that the focus for the next 45 minutes would be endurance. She was in classic cycling gear, even with a cute little cap, seated on her bike, fifty odd bikes in tiers in front of her, two laptops, one for the music, the other for the leaderboard. Yes there is a leaderboard.
Throughout the class your RPM and Force (in watts not midi-chlorians) is tracked and displayed on large screens. I chose cycle #32 so was towards the back of the room, which made it harder to see the instructor and required a bit of focus to read through the leaderboard table, which changes throughout the session. There were 35 people taking the class. My goal was to not come last.
The electronic borderline techno music started pumping, the lights dimmed out, just a kind of blue suffusing the room. Off we went…
In this class the goal was to achieve certain RPM rates combined with suitable gear levels (these bikes have a small red gear lever, which is way cooler than that circular knob you pretend to turn in a spinning class). The RPM levels were instructed, the gear levels up to the individuals.
I didn’t push myself as hard as I thought I could, in part because I didn’t want overexert myself and then eke out the rest of the class faking it. I had my gears set around 14, kept to the target RPMs with my Force around 140 watts. Fifteen minutes in I looked up and saw that the ‘race’ leader was pumping out over 300 watts – that’s some serious thigh action. I was languishing in the bottom third – time to put my glutes into action!
Similar to a spinning class there were movements between sitting and standing, cycling as fast as you can in timed bursts and slowing and focussing on breathing and technique. In the moments where I rose and tightened my core, I looked around me trying to figure out who was on cycle #22 – s/he had to be outpaced for me to shimmy up the leaderboard. Slow and steady wins the race, or in this case, the wo/man who can pedal at around 300 watts for 45 minutes.
I finished 18th out of 35 cyclists. Not bad for a newbie.
The class lasted the full 45 minutes with a decent bit of stretching at the end. I felt refreshed. The blue tinged darkness eased my mind of the remains of the day. The stretch in my hamstrings and engagement in my quads putting body before mind – therapeutic without therapy.
And I took the Tube home.
If you would like to try out Cyclebeat use this link for a 50% discount: